“Homes for Huntsville Heroes” is a recently new program dedicated to building new homes for Huntsville’s local veterans and is a start-up made from members of H.E.A.R.T.S Veterans Museum of Texas. Namely, it is the passion of executive director Tara Burnett.
“I had a dream. It was like I was watching TV,” Burnett said. “I saw these little cabins in our front pasture and a lot of our veterans were there. They were just little cabins right there in our front pasture and he looked at me for a minute and he said, ‘Well, let’s see what it would take to do it.’”
Meeting another local veteran and Huntsville High School construction teacher Kevin DaSilva, the program quickly took off thanks to the collaboration with Huntsville High School. In only two months, the program has already begun to take a solid shape, initially receiving a $10,000 donation to get things rolling. The program is now fully supplied by Operation Finally Home, covering the first set of homes.
“Everything that we’ve needed, you know we have a question. How are we going to set this up,” Burnett said. “Somebody walks through the door or the phone rings and then we get the answer as to how we’re going to set it up. It’s just been, for lack of a better term, miraculous that it has all come together the way that it has.”
With preliminary contracts already underway, Homes for Huntsville Heroes has set their sights on a goal of building five homes in five years. These five homes will house veterans on the property of Tara and Robert Burnett in a safe and modular way.
This allows the veterans to keep their individuality while also supplying a safe space where they can receive aid quickly and efficiently. Homes for Huntsville Heroes have already found their first veteran, B.J. Shotwell, who is also a member of the H.E.A.R.T.S. volunteer team.
“This museum was set up for veterans by veterans,” Shotwell said. “We’ve been taking care of veterans here for 20 or 25 years and when I first started in this museum, we had several World War II veterans. As they got older and older and older, I started to see a pattern. They got to the point that they could not function by themselves in this world. That’s where I am coming up on now, that I’m almost 74, that I have my own struggles. My water won’t flow. Drop 30 miles out in the country they see what’s happened to this guy, so that’s where I’m headed. I’m going to be in that condition soon. The property I’m on is being sold so I have to move. This came at a perfect time for me so that’s why I’m here. They saved me.”
The museum also sponsors many other programs for veterans and hopes to get more of the community involved. One major hope is that by the time the last house begins in 2025 more opportunities can arise to help let Homes for Huntsville Heroes expand.
However, in the meantime, there are many ways that the H.E.A.R.T.S Veterans Museum of Texas could use help. From assistance refurbishing cars, such as the museum’s Huey, to landscaping and design or the installation of a new Vietnam Wall replica. The H.E.A.R.T.S. Veterans Museum of Texas would love to have people come out and share their passions with the community.